A clever and entertaining, if somewhat-uneven, adventure tale.

ENEMY IMMORTAL

A misfit Earth soldier joins a rescue mission in outer space in Meeks-Johnson’s debut sci-fi novel.

When the Entanglement, a powerful alliance between many alien planets, brings a new species into its fold, all the members of that species are assigned the same job. For example, the rule-oriented Dasypods make up the Entanglement’s Police Guild. Lt. Jade Mahelona is a native Hawaiian who fears that Earth’s assimilation into the Entanglement will destroy its diverse culture, in the same way that white colonialism damaged Hawaii’s. Jade’s scientist mother did experiments on her daughter that gave her the ability to sense electrical fields and read the feelings of people around her. As a member of Earth’s Solar Defense Force, she takes on a mission to rescue a group of alien colonists. Her team includes Cmdr. Ironsides, a grumpy Dasypod who’s prejudiced against humans; Quist Quillipson, an Obnot from the Science Guild who has a brain like a supercomputer; and professor Conrad Singleton, an enthusiastic human linguist and xenologist who may be hiding a dark secret. As the squad teleports from base to base, Jade becomes aware that the interstellar empire known as the Immortal Ascendency is primed to violate its treaty and attack the Entanglement. To prevent the annihilation of humanity, the SDF must go to war. The alien cultures that Jade encounters are delightfully and often humorously bizarre; for example, the Dasypods enter periodic meditative states in which they think about their flaws, followed by compulsive apologies to everyone around them. Jade’s thoughtful meditations on the dangers of colonialism are also compelling. However, the book’s characterization of humanity as militaristic, first and foremost—and its reinvention of a Hindu god as a murderous alien tyrant—muddles the message. A few characters, such as Lt. Keolo Davis and Immortal Lord Umlac aren’t as well-developed as the main squad, and the duller segments that focus on them may leave readers itching to get back to the more likable heroes. The prose is simple and engaging throughout, even when conveying complicated scientific concepts.

A clever and entertaining, if somewhat-uneven, adventure tale.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 508

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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